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In Australia, two million people live with anxiety and one million people live with depression, according to Beyond Blue’s latest annual report.
“Mental health issues are really common,” says Dr Grant Blashki, Beyond Blue’s lead Clinical Advisor. “We all hit bumps in our lives, but we need to look at what we can do to build resilience and strength.
“The more we strengthen ourselves mentally, the better we are able to cope.”
This is where the concept of self-care comes in.
“Self-care is when you actively prioritise time and effort into looking after your mental and emotional health and well-being, on your own,” explains Dr Blashki.
He says it’s empowering getting into good habits, treating your mind well, building resilience and knowing the signs to look out for when the wheels are starting to get wobbly.
Dr Blashki highlights that self-care is incredibly important for high performers at work.
“As a General Practitioner, I see a lot of high performing people, like entrepreneurs and women in leadership, who put on this heroic stance and because they don’t pay attention to looking after their mind, they start to come unstuck.”
“Some benefits of self-care are that it can prevent mental health issues; it helps the person be more resilient to be able to take on life’s challenges; helps the person better manage stress and it even increases performance at work,” says Dr Blashki.
Strategies to practice self-care
“The first thing is your mindset, acknowledge that self-care is important and prioritise looking after your mind and yourself,” says Blashki.
He explains that the next strategy is to make self-care part of your routine so you have a scheduled break or locked into an activity you enjoy.
Connecting with social support groups like friends is important as there is evidence to suggest they’re protective against mental health symptoms.
The use of alcohol, caffeine and other substances should be limited as they all have a way of negatively affecting someone who is already highly stressed or anxious.
“It is also about being mindful and using the many free apps, such as Smiling Mind or Headspace that are currently available,” recommends Dr Blashki.
He also recommends having rules about technology and creating firm boundaries.
“People are swimming in continual stimulation,” he says. “It’s my impression that technology is stressing out people’s brain as it’s not getting any rest.”
When you need more than self-care
“If you’re having issues, put your hand up early and get some help,” recommends Dr Blashki.
He says the following can be red flags that you, or someone you know, needs more help.
- Uncharacteristic behaviour;
- Getting into a lot of conflict with family, friends or work, can signal you’re overstretched;
- Making silly mistakes at work;
- Withdrawing from your world;
- Massive exhaustion on the weekends;
- Overly self-critical thoughts;
- Feelings of depression, hopelessness or worry.
Beyond Blue has a mental health self-checklist, a 24-hour phone line (1300 22 46 36) and online forums that people across Australia participate in to seek help on specific areas.
Then there is further professional help, such as visiting your GP and getting a mental health plan which entitles you to six Medicare subsidised sessions with a psychologist with a possible additional four after a review.
“Unfortunately, Australia has a very significant suicide rate, if you are feeling like harming yourself, call Lifeline or there is BeyondNow, which is an app designed to help people manage their suicidal thoughts and feelings,” says Dr Blashki.
If you or someone you know is in need of crisis or suicide prevention support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp